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Family seeks justice for man found dismembered in Lake Superior

The family of Richard Balsimo Jr. held a walk Sunday in Duluth to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous men and to call for changes to the justice system.

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Advocate Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith speaks about the missing and murdered Indigenous men in Minnesota and Wisconsin who have yet to be found as the Oshki Giizhik singers gather behind her in Canal Park on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Over 30 members of Richard "Ricky" Balsimo Jr.'s family gathered in Duluth's Canal Park on Sunday morning, Sept. 26, to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous men and to call for changes to the justice system. Nearly all of them were clad in T-shirts calling for "Justice for Ricky" in honor of their lost loved one.

Richard Balsimo Jr., 34, was found dismembered in Lake Superior near Grand Portage on July 15 and 16. His remains were found in 5-gallon buckets and a tote recovered from the lake after being reported as missing for a little over a month. His family members hired private investigators from Applied Professional Services to investigate his murder.

"No family should have to go through what we went through," said Richard Balsimo Sr., Ricky's father. "We had to solve my son’s murder, locate his body and we were in the process of hiring our own divers to retrieve his remains. If it wasn’t for APS, we’d never have found Ricky. We ran out of funds; we spent our savings finding Ricky. They worked for us for well over a month for free."

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Raquel Turner recalls her family's experiences while searching for her brother, Richard Balsimo Jr., whose remains were found in Lake Superior earlier this year. She stands surrounded by her family members at an awareness event in Duluth's Canal Park on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

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Raquel Turner, Ricky's sister, said the local authorities seemed disinterested in the case because Ricky had a felony on his record.

"We went through numerous different resources and it didn’t matter," Turner said. "To them, he’s just a criminal. Just another missing Indigenous man. It shouldn’t matter that he’s been to prison. His life matters more than that. They didn't view my brother as a person."

The Twin Cities-based family spent a month in the Twin Ports, talking to people and making their own inquiries into Ricky's disappearance.

"We had to put our lives in danger. We had to go to the people who played a part in killing and dismembering him. We looked them in the eye and each one said, 'He was like a brother to me,'" Turner said. "And we had to sit there knowing they're involved. Knowing that if they knew that we knew, we’d never find Ricky. So we kept going and working as a family, everyone working their own parts. We were doing things the cops should have done."

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Signs reading "Justice for Ricky" sit ready to be carried along the Lakewalk at an event Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, to bring awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous men such as Richard "Ricky" Balsimo Jr., found murdered in Lake Superior earlier this year. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

Richard Sr. called for changes to the criminal justice system in light of his experiences searching for his son.

"It’s up to us as individuals to change the system. I hope Ricky’s tragic death and what my family’s gone through is the start of this change," Richard Sr. said. "It’ll take every single one of us to change. Today, it’s us suffering; tomorrow, it may be you. Let’s stop this cycle today. Justice for Ricky!"

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The group echoed his call. After a press conference, those gathered joined in a few songs and walked along the Lakewalk to raise awareness of their cause before placing flowers and tobacco into Lake Superior in memory of Ricky.

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Over 30 family members of Richard "Ricky" Balsimo gather in Canal Park clad in "Justice for Ricky" T-shirts on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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